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Words and pictures by Melanie Chambers - Liv Ambassador

Buffalo Pound Provincial Park

By the time we reached Regina Saskatchewan, we’d driven 2,500 kilometers, gassed up over a dozen times, eaten at Smitty’s Pancake House twice (Cobb salad both times!), run out of gas almost twice (to conserve gas one of the times, and ensure we made it to the gas station, Paul unhitched the Uhaul in front of an abandoned motel, but that’s another story).

My relationship is still intact, in case you were wondering.

Not to mention that for three days of driving and/or working on my laptop in the passenger seat on little sleep, I was frazzled. I’d already ridden my Intrigue Advanced Pro 29 with groups of women in Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay and Winnipeg, so by this time, with all the considerations I mentioned, I was thinking of skipping riding in Regina altogether. I needed a break. Then, a friend from my Instagram mentioned the trails in Buffalo Pound, Saskatchewan: ‘Those trails are legendary—you gotta go.”

So, as stressed-out women often do, I got my act together and made it happen.

But here’s the glitch: it’s Saturday on a long weekend. Who is going to be around, let alone meet a stranger on a holiday Monday?  I reached out to Eric Lett, a coach in Regina.

Turns out Eric knew of someone that fit the bill: Jen guides mountain bikers through Buffalo Pound and is a member of the Moose Jaw Pavers Cycling Club. She replied immediately: “Hi Melanie. Yeah, early Monday ride works for me!

An hour outside of Regina, Buffalo Pound Provincial Park is legendary, if not a bit surreal. The turn off the from the Trans Canada, about 28 kilometers north of Moose Jaw, is a straight flat farm road. Where the heck is the mountain? Then, like a mirage in the desert, it appears.

The area is located in the Qu’Appelle Valley, which just happens to be created from the same glaciers that made our beautiful Rocky Mountains about 10,000 years ago. Pulling into the parking lot, campers and families abound. Then, there’s Jen and another female rider, Susan. Before taking off, we realized that amongst our trio of ladies, we span three decades in age: Jen is in her 40s; I’m approaching 50; Susan is 60 something.

group of cyclists

We take off in a cloud of dust as it hasn’t rained in weeks; and in a region known for being sunny 321 days of the year, the heat is searing down on us.

Into the forest on the dusty single track, we climb, and then climb some more. It’s short and sweet, but we’re all left gasping at the top. Jen began riding about five years ago, did some provincial races and then had an injury last August that stopped her cold; when a drop ‘went all wrong,’ she broke her back and needed spinal fusion surgery. You cannot tell that she is recovering. A speedy and technical rider, she’s healing up nicely, I’d say.

The constant elevation change of swooping ups and downs is relentless. All my life, even growing up in Nova Scotia, we’re told Saskatchewan is flatter than a pancake. How flat, you ask: it’s the only province where you can see your dog run away—for three days. But Buffalo Pound’s trails and this incredible valley is an exception. Like my friend said, it’s a must visit riding destination.

The trail loops are short, but once connected, create a superb flowy ride. “We have valleys, not mountains,” says Jen. We reach a trail called Junkyard, and then Quarter Mile, a huge climb near the former ski hill: “there’s talk of bringing it back.” A ski hill in Saskatchewan? My mind is officially blown.

The park also hosts, pre covid, annual events—XTERRA triathlons and an eight-hour race (once they hosted a provincial race).

It’s not just that it’s shocking to find hills in Saskatchewan, it’s that they are so dam steep. We hit a short trail, Roots. We zip down the trail in no time, but as someone who loves climbing, we decide it must be climbed; however, these trails are one directional. To ensure we don’t ram into another ride, Jen waits at the bottom while Susan and I grunt our way to the top. With all my weight over the handlebars and front wheel, so the front doesn’t lift off the ground, I’m struggling to stay on the trail and make it to the top.

Then, we quickly turn around and bomb back down. Adrenalin surging and endorphins running wild, I want more, more, more! It takes minutes to reach Jen.

Heading back to our Uhaul and Paul, who are waiting under the shade of a tree, Paul informs me that the basket holding all my shoes and boots broke—my precious footwear is strewn everywhere in the back of the van. If you know anything about me, you know that my shoes are my children. I have more than 20 pairs of boots and shoes from around the world–delicate green slippers from Paris, red clunky clogs from Norway, and donkey boots from Toronto–cowboy style boots with coloured donkeys that I wore at my mother’s memorial. This is just a sample. Without missing a beat, Susan runs to her car and grabs two durable grocery bags—oddly enough, just enough to carry the shoes.

The babies are back in order and all is right with the world.

It only takes  a few hours of riding with women, bonding over our love of riding and homes, and now, shoes, to make me feel satiated and calm. Getting back in the car, I’m so grateful I didn’t miss out on this ride. Thanks ladies. See you again on the way back!